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of the Lord Jesus Christ, it had been because of their inability either to raise the necessary amount, or to find a suitable person through whom to forward it to the Roman capital.
In this expression of St. Paul's thankfulness to those, who, having had "spiritual things sown unto them" by his ministry, had in return imparted to him of their "carnal things," there is one feature of character displayed, to which I would particularly lead your attention. You perceive that, in declaring his obligations to them for the gift which they had conferred, he uses this language; "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly:" and it appears, from these words, that, while he recognized the Philippians as the friends by whom his wants had been relieved, he, at the same time, traced the benevolent spirit which had actuated them, and the results by which it had been followed, primarily to the gracious providence of his Creator and Redeemer. The disposition of the Apostle was to consider men as but instruments in the hands of God; and to regard every benefit conferred by them as flowing from Him, who is "the author and giver of all good things." The tendency thus manifested by the renewed heart to ascend beyond secondary causes, and ascribe all its blessings to the Fountain of mercy, is exceedingly worthy of your attention; because it constitutes one remarkable point of difference between the real Christian, and the mere man of the world. There are probably many, among those who now hear me, who, in various acts of friendship from others which have conduced to their prosperity and advantage, have never yet discerned the interposition of the Lord God Almighty; and, instead of being supremely thankful to Him to whom gra+ Collect for Seventh Sunday after Trinity.
I. Cor. ix. 11.
titude was due, have expended all their affections upon earthly and subordinate agents. Divine grace leads to a far different train of thought and feeling. In every instance of human kindness, the believer sees the finger of heaven; and, acknowledging the Lord as the merciful Disposer, looks upon all others as nothing more than the channels, selected by this beneficent Being for the conveyance of his gifts. How delightfully is this habitual recognition of Providence, in the various blessings of existence, exhibited by the saints of Scripture! Joseph, exalted by Pharaoh to a station second only to royalty itself, thus exclaims to his brethren; "Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt."* Ezra, expressing his joy at that decree of the monarch of Persia, by which the chosen people were permitted to return to the land of Judah, in this manner confesses the source of their privileges; "Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem." St. Paul, consoled by the edifying conversation of a Christian brother, glorifies the Giver of all good, and cries, "God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus." These examples, combined with that of the words under consideration, speak an instructive lesson. They enjoin upon you, my brethren, the duty of being grateful to human friends, but more thankful still to the God under whose suggestions they act; and bid you, while you honor and love your earthly benefactors, never to forget that unseen and heavenly Father, "who giveth you richly all things to enjoy."§
* Gen. xlv. 9. + Ezra, vii. 27.
II. Cor. vii. 6.
§ I. Tim. vi. 17.
From this expression of thankfulness for the supply of his necessities, it might have been inferred by some, that the Apostle had been restless under the privations he suffered; and that the gifts conveyed by the Philippian church had suddenly awakened him from a state of gloomy dejection, into cheerfulness of mind. He is anxious to guard against such an idea, and against the evil consequences to which it might lead; and, accordingly, declares
In the first place, that he had acquired the divine art of acquiescing, with entire willingness, in the appointments of an almighty Providence, whatever they might be, "Not that I speak," observes St. Paul, "in respect of want;" that is, do not imagine that, because I rejoice in any mitigation of my sorrows, I therefore have been miserable beneath the condition assigned to me: "for I have learned, in whatsoever state 1 am, therewith to be content." There is something singularly delightful to contemplate, in the example of submission to the divine dealings here exhibited to your view. Imprisoned, deprived of the common comforts of life, and, above all, taken from his accustomed opportunities of usefulness to the church and to the world, he, nevertheless, bows with meekness to the dispensation; and is sustained by the conviction, that all which the Judge of the earth doeth must be in justice, goodness, and mercy. That part of the Apostle's declaration, however, which is particularly worthy of study, is his description of the true nature of this resigned spirit, amidst all the varieties of human fortune. He tells us, you perceive, that it was a state of mind "learned" from above: a principle of acquiescence produced by divine grace in the heart of the believer; and leading him, on spiritual grounds, to yield to every arrange
ment of infinite wisdom. It is evident, therefore, my brethren, that Christian contentment is a feeling very different from that species of submission to their destiny, which is so frequently displayed by mere men of the world. Persons such as these, finding that there is no escape from the situation in which Providence has placed them, sit down in a sort of stoical apathy; and resolve, that, instead of wearing out life with useless repinings, they will bear with tranquillity that which it is impossible to avoid. The quality portrayed by St. Paul, and which is exhibited by the real servant of God, is not this compelled resignation; but a principle of enlightened satisfaction with the appointments of heaven, implanted by the Holy Spirit in his soul. The joy thus experienced by the renewed disciple, amidst the sorrows and adverse circumstances of life, proceeds from several considerations. He feels himself a 'sinner against God; and, when he examines his own unworthiness, he is brought to the reflection, that even the most unpromising condition to which his heavenly Father can subject him, is far superior to his deserts. Again. He places before his eye the loveliness and excellence of the divine character: he feels, that what the King of kings, and Lord of lords orders, however contrary to his own wishes, and painful to flesh and blood, cannot be otherwise than perfectly compassionate, and perfectly wise: and, with the Psalmist, delights to say, "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof."* In addition to these two grounds of acquiescence, he finds a third in that view which he takes, by faith, of a world of happiness to come. He looks upward for his home; he is certain that
*Ps. xcvii. 1.
here he cannot find it; and, in expectation of that rest which God hath prepared for those who love him, sustains cheerfully the buffetings and trials of his pilgrimage. It is from such motives, that the Christian, through divine grace, is led to receive with pleasure every thing which the supreme Disposer ordains; and those of you, my hearers, who are influenced by the converting Spirit of God, will, under all circumstances, be thus minded. Your feeling will be that of Eli; "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good."* It will be that of Job; "Blessed be the name of the Lord." It will be that of St. Paul; "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
Having thus, in order to remove any supposition that he was discontented with his lot, declared his tranquil submission to trial, the Apostle proceeds, secondly, to express the same idea in a more enlarged form. "I know," he exclaims, "both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." The word rendered "I am instructed," is one that was used by the Greeks, in reference to persons who were initiated into their sacred mysteries: and is here beautifully employed by St. Paul to denote that secret life of faith in the soul, into which the Christian has been led by conversion; and through which he has learned how to comport himself with propriety, under every change of outward circumstances in this present world. Through this experimental acquaintance with the power of religion, the Apostle was enabled, as he now informs us, to pass unhurt through the temptations of humbling poverty on
* I. Sam. iii. 18.
† Job, i. 21.